Climate change: a youth leader’s view

By: Atty. Gloria Estenzo Ramos January 20,2014 - 04:26 PM

It is each citizen’s responsibility to know and understand the root causes of our vastly changed climate and most importantly, to be part of the solution. It is heart-warming to see our youth actively taking the cudgels for their non-negotiable right to a healthy environment amid the pervasive fossil fuel-dependency mindset that many still cling to.

I am honored to share with you a letter from Kristian Abad Lora, a youth leader and law student who exemplifies, in Nelson Mandela’s words “a good head and a good heart” which “are always a formidable combination.” Our paths crossed years back when he was still a freshman student at the University of the Philippines in Cebu during the height of the Balili controversy. Always the leader who cares and acts, he almost missed this semester’s course when he led the relief efforts in his Yolanda-devastated hometown in Leyte.

The excerpts of Mr. Lora’s letter, addressed to our officials and meant for all of us, reads:
“I would like to express my deepest concern about the oil exploration and discovery in Aloguinsan by Australian firm Gas2Grid Ltd…

“Oil, a fossil fuel, is one of the major contributors to climate change. The continued incessant burning of oil and other fossil fuels has dumped billions of tons of carbon into our atmosphere. Four years ago, when I wrote a letter to the Cebu Provincial Government to stop the operations of coal-fired power plants in Toledo and Naga, the global concentration of CO2 in the atmosphere was still at 390 ppm (parts per million). Three hundred fifty ppm is the upper safety limit. Now, it has reached 400 ppm. What does it mean?

“To quote Dr. Annmarie Eldering of Nasa (National Aeronautics and Space Administration):
‘Reaching 400 ppm is a stark reminder that the world is still not on track to limit CO2 emissions and therefore climate impacts. We’re still on the business-as-usual path, and adding more and more CO2, which will impact the generations ahead of us. Passing this mark should motivate us to advocate for focused efforts to reduce emissions across the globe.’

“We know that higher concentrations of carbon in the atmosphere results in global warming, which also warms our oceans. High temperature in our oceans fuels storms; hence, stronger storms or hurricanes such as supertyphoon Yolanda and more to come, as scientifically predicted…

It may be true that oil drilling, should it push through would bring benefits to the people of Aloguinsan, to Cebu and to the country. But these benefits are  transient while adverse effects will last long. When the oil runs out, since oil is a non-renewable energy resource, Gas2Grid will no longer have business in Aloguinsan. Consequently, this will lead to a massive lay-off of workers. It will also leave long-term adverse effects on the aquatic ecosystem near the drilling area, which will be disturbed while drilling is going on. The effect will be worse if an oil spill will happen due to negligence or lack of high-quality equipment. This happened recently in Manila Bay. As a result, this will gravely affect the livelihood of the fisherfolk living near the shore for a very long period of time since it takes time for the environment to regenerate itself.

“Hence, as oil is not a sustainable source of energy, it is not, as well, a sustainable source of livelihood and development. Negative effects will outweigh the transient positive effects over the long term.

“It must be noted, also, that Aloguinsan is part of the Tañon Strait Protected Seascape (TSPS). ‘The TSPS, which lies between the islands of Negros and Cebu, is among the country’s major fishing grounds where about 26,000 fishermen operate. It is also an important migration corridor for whales, dolphins and other marine mammals…’

“There are still two cases pending in the Supreme Court on the offshore drilling as to its impacts to the environment and to the affected communities…”While these cases are still pending, the government should not entertain or allow any oil exploration in the TSPS. (To be continued)

“I would like to request that a public consultation be held on the matter at hand… All constituents of the Cebu provincial government since it will also affect the entire Cebu province. Our laws mandate all local government units (LGUs) to involve their constituents in making policies and decisions that will affect the latter.

“I speak not just in behalf of my generation but also of the generations to come. …the Constitution guarantees the inherent right of every citizen to a ‘healthful and balanced ecology’ – a right to which even the unborn citizens are entitled… “In the landmark case of Oposa v. Factoran,  the Supreme Court emphasized that this right imposes our correlative duty to refrain from impairing the environment, simply termed as inter-generational responsibility and justice. Moreover, the Local Government Code  mandates all LGUs to ‘enhance’ the said right.

Such duty involves educating the constituents on participatory governance, environmental protection and sustainable development, among others, instead of encouraging them to allow, tolerate or support activities that are detrimental to the environment and to their livelihood for the pursuit of short-term benefits.

“Philippine Climate Change Commissioner Naderev Saño, in his speech during the UN Climate Talks in Warsaw, Poland right after Yolanda struck our country, reminded everyone of us to stop procrastinating in addressing climate change.

“The recent Yolanda tragedy which cost the lives of more than 6,000 fellow Filipinos is a result of either our procrastination on climate action or our inability to look at the long-term consequences of our decisions and actions or both. When will we ever learn?  When will we ever begin to act in addressing climate change? When will we ever start in changing our ways and policies towards sustainable development?”

Will government listen to our youth this time?

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